Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Organizing the Pantry & Cleaning out the Fridge

About once a year I seem to lose track of everything and I have to totally empty and reorganize my cabinets and my freezer. I hate doing it but you get a much clearer picture of what needs to be on your shopping list and you avoid running out of staples. I don't think anything wasted more time, money and mental energy than running out of something half way through a recipe.

I don't have a big pantry, my dry goods are kind of spread out. I have some stolen shelves in the linen closet, the coat closet and the regular kitchen cabinets. It makes it harder to keep track of things. After moving things around and grouping like items together, I discovered that I have an inordinant amount of white beans. They'll definitely be on the menu more over the next few weeks.

For tonight's dinner I'll be cleaning the fridge out so the CSA pickup will fit. A quick glance inside the fridge revealed some lettuce, an onion, leftover beets, 2 zucchini and a small container of acorn squash. There are two bulbs of garlic on the counter. If you read that list and it meant nothing to you, don't panic. The more you cook, the better you are at recognizing the possibilities in your fridge.

Here's how I do it. First, think about what foods you would find in recipes together. For example, would it be uncommon to see onion, garlic and zucchini in the same dish? Not really but when it comes to the beets and squash, you need to make a decision. Those are two great tastes that may not taste great together. What kind of shape is the lettuce in? Can it still be a salad or would it be better cooked and served more like other greens?

I already know I need to use some of the white beans so I've had them soaking overnight. How can I incorporate the beans into a recipe involving the fridge ingredients? Is there anything in the freezer that can help me tie these ingredients together?

The other big piece of the puzzle is, how much time to I have to devote to this meal? Am I running out to work tonight, do I have a meeting, is Jim working late? Do I need a meal that can stand up to being in the pot a little longer without losing quality and flavor in case someone is running late?

The final verdict is I'll be making a vegetable and white bean soup with squash biscuits and a salad. For the soup I'll sautee the onion and garlic in a little olive oil. When the onions are softened, I'll toss in the zucchini and beets. I'll add about 4 cups of tomato sauce I had defrosted earlier in the day. Crushed tomatoes would be fine as well but I'm using what I have. I'll add the white beans in after they have cooked (tomato products prevent dried beans from cooking completely.) I'll probably add a dash of Bragg's Aminos or tamari depending on what it tasted like. Cajun seasoning and Italian seasoning are other flavoring options.

While that's simmering, I'll use the leftover squash to make squash biscuits. This recipe is from Grandma's Wartime Kitchen by Joanne Lamb Hayes. It's really just a basic biscuit recipe that adds 3 Tbs brown sugar and uses pureed squash for half of the liquid in the recipe. The lettuce will be chopped up for salad, although it could easily be added to the soup if you prefer.


Barbara said...

Wow. That was a great post. Letting us see your thoughts and decisions. Sounds like a great menu.

I hope to get a couple of books from the library soon. And I found a good copy of the Compassionate Cook at half.com for $1.75, so I ordered it.

I'll look in the books for a muffin recipe, I have a taste for them since you keep mentioning them!

Oh, just FYI, tomorrow I'm posting on my blog about a website called cairo.com. You should give it a shot. You can search your area for sales. Rice, or toilet paper, or whatever. Very useful.


Katie said...

Thanks Barbara. I love the Compassionate Cook. Whenever I teach my veg nutrition class I tell people, you don't have to agree with Peta's politics to enjoy their cookbooks. Those people like to eat.

Their quick bread recipes are really good. I'm pretty sure that's the cookbook with the zucchini bread and banana bread recipes that we love.

I have to check out cairo.com. I'm intrigued.

Sunflower said...

I own the Compassionate Cook, but rarely use it :-/ I have so many other cookbooks I love!! :) I second the Universal Muffin recipe in the Tightwad Gazette. I've made copies of that recipe and given it to countless people. I rarely make it now though because I've found muffins are a trouble food for me! I can eat and eat and eat them without feeling full. So I mostly stick to oatmeal, hashbrowns or slow-cooked porridge for breakfast :-D All are SUPER thrifty.

By the way, I'm starting an email newsletter for anyone interested in living a thrifty vegetarian lifestyle. If anyone wants to join or has ideas for articles/thrifty tips, just send me an email.


Keep up the blogging Katie, it gets better every post!!! :)


Katie said...

Thanks Ruthie!